By: Robbie Stratakos
The New York Giants are turning the corner.
Yes, we’re talking about a team who’s 3-7 and playing in the worst division in the NFL, that being the NFC East. Let’s put the magnifying glass closer on the subject at hand: there’s growth across the board.
As a whole, their defense has made enormous strides this season. Up front, the combination of Leonard Williams, Dalvin Tomlinson and Dexter Lawrence has been stout. They’re playing the run well, pushing the pile with ease and have been one of the best defensive lines in football.
Free agent signees Blake Martinez and James Bradberry have been worth the price of admission and then some.
Sure, Martinez was a tackling machine with the Green Bay Packers, totaling 443 combined tackles from 2017-19. That said, he’s playing the best football of his career with Big Blue. Martinez has been instinctual against the run, come down to rush the passer and given up minimal yards after catch. For the season, he has 96 combined tackles, two sacks and an interception.
Bradberry has picked off three passes this season, flourished in bump and run and been deflecting passes like nobody’s business. Meanwhile, rookie Darnay Holmes has been a savvy presence in coverage and in coming down to rush the passer and Ryan Lewis and Isaac Yiadom have held their own playing on the outside.
In-between the corners are safeties Jabrill Peppers, who has been making tackles all over the field, and Logan Ryan, who has been a welcome veteran presence to their secondary. Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham has shown a knack for maximizing his players, taking a situational approach to every down and getting productivity from unheralded individuals.
Daniel Jones is in the midst of a turbulent season, but the team’s last two games, which were wins, have been relieving for the organization. In both games the quarterback didn’t turn the ball over; it’s not a coincidence. He has secured the ball when he smells pressure off the edge and thrown the ball away when no one is open.
Jones has been a dangerous threat on the ground, as he has rushed for 384 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown in the Giants’ Week 10 matchup with the rival Philadelphia Eagles. Jones also hit multiple receivers on pivotal deep passes in the aforementioned game, including a 40-yard fourth quarter completion to Darius Slayton, putting the Giants in position to kick the game-sealing field goal.
The Duke product is playing in front of a young offensive line but one that has improved over the last month. Rookie tackle Andrew Thomas looks crisper on both passing and running downs and appears to be blocking with more confidence; first-year center Nick Gates is coming into his own; fellow rookies Shane Lemieux and Matt Peart have answered the bell when called upon; veterans Will Hernandez, Kevin Zeitler and Cam Fleming have been respectable. More stability up front has allowed the Giants to use the run to set up the pass, as Wayne Gallman has been moving the sticks in place of the injured Saquon Barkley.
The Giants have won back-to-back games, moving them to within a half-game of the first-place Eagles. While a superficial victory in the win column, the Giants’ Week 10 victory holds more weight than meets the eye.
This was their first win over the Eagles since 2016, snapping an eight-game losing streak. Across that streak, they found new ways to blow leads and crush the fan base. This time around, they got out to an early lead, punched back when Philly delivered a blow and finished it off in the closing moments. They never trailed.
This win signifies that times are changing for the Giants. Six of their seven losses this season have been by 10 or fewer points, some decided in the final seconds.
First-year head coach Joe Judge has this team competing with everyone in the sport. It’s a matter of finishing and playing fundamentally sound on both sides of the ball. When you continually lose these games (the Giants began the season 1-7), such a sentiment is baseless. When you begin stringing together wins (the Giants have won three of their last five games), that sentiment begins to hold merit.
There isn’t a mere aspect of this team that’s a finished product. Jones has to continue to take care of the ball; the O-Line has to continue to progress; the defense needs more pressure off the edge; the Giants have to win a non-divisional game.
The Giants are in play to win the NFC East. It’s feasible to think six wins could capture the division given the feeble nature of those in the four-team packing (Giants, Eagles, Washington and the Dallas Cowboys). New York has the upside and momentum to sneak into the playoffs, but that’s not the most important element to the present equation.
They’re closing out games, playmakers are stepping forward and the organization is trending upward.